political-econ   173

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Adam Smith, David Hume, Liberalism, and Esotericism - Call for Papers - Elsevier
https://twitter.com/davidmanheim/status/963071765995032576
https://archive.is/njT4P
A very good economics journal--famously an outlet for rigorous, outside the box thinking--is publishing a special issue on hidden meanings in the work of two of the world's greatest thinkers.

Another sign the new Straussian age is upon us: Bayesians update accordingly!
big-peeps  old-anglo  economics  hmm  roots  politics  ideology  political-econ  philosophy  straussian  history  early-modern  britain  anglo  speculation  questions  events  multi  twitter  social  commentary  discussion  backup  econotariat  garett-jones  spearhead 
february 2018 by nhaliday
Unaligned optimization processes as a general problem for society
TL;DR: There are lots of systems in society which seem to fit the pattern of “the incentives for this system are a pretty good approximation of what we actually want, so the system produces good results until it gets powerful, at which point it gets terrible results.”

...

Here are some more places where this idea could come into play:

- Marketing—humans try to buy things that will make our lives better, but our process for determining this is imperfect. A more powerful optimization process produces extremely good advertising to sell us things that aren’t actually going to make our lives better.
- Politics—we get extremely effective demagogues who pit us against our essential good values.
- Lobbying—as industries get bigger, the optimization process to choose great lobbyists for industries gets larger, but the process to make regulators robust doesn’t get correspondingly stronger. So regulatory capture gets worse and worse. Rent-seeking gets more and more significant.
- Online content—in a weaker internet, sites can’t be addictive except via being good content. In the modern internet, people can feel addicted to things that they wish they weren’t addicted to. We didn’t use to have the social expertise to make clickbait nearly as well as we do it today.
- News—Hyperpartisan news sources are much more worth it if distribution is cheaper and the market is bigger. News sources get an advantage from being truthful, but as society gets bigger, this advantage gets proportionally smaller.

...

For these reasons, I think it’s quite plausible that humans are fundamentally unable to have a “good” society with a population greater than some threshold, particularly if all these people have access to modern technology. Humans don’t have the rigidity to maintain social institutions in the face of that kind of optimization process. I think it is unlikely but possible (10%?) that this threshold population is smaller than the current population of the US, and that the US will crumble due to the decay of these institutions in the next fifty years if nothing totally crazy happens.
ratty  thinking  metabuch  reflection  metameta  big-yud  clever-rats  ai-control  ai  risk  scale  quality  ability-competence  network-structure  capitalism  randy-ayndy  civil-liberty  marketing  institutions  economics  political-econ  politics  polisci  advertising  rent-seeking  government  coordination  internet  attention  polarization  media  truth  unintended-consequences  alt-inst  efficiency  altruism  society  usa  decentralized  rhetoric  prediction  population  incentives  intervention  criminal-justice  property-rights  redistribution  taxes  externalities  science  monetary-fiscal  public-goodish  zero-positive-sum  markets  cost-benefit  regulation  regularizer  order-disorder  flux-stasis  shift  smoothness  phase-transition  power  definite-planning  optimism  pessimism  homo-hetero  interests  eden-heaven  telos-atelos  threat-modeling  alignment 
february 2018 by nhaliday
What explains the formation and decay of clusters of creativity? - Marginal REVOLUTION
Creativity is often highly concentrated in time and space, and across different domains. What explains the formation and decay of clusters of creativity? In this paper we match data on thousands of notable individuals born in Europe between the XIth and the XIXth century with historical data on city institutions and population. After documenting several stylized facts, we show that the formation of creative clusters is not preceded by increases in city size. Instead, the emergence of city institutions protecting economic and political freedoms facilitates the attraction and production of creative talent.

IOW, the opposite of what Dick Florida said.
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january 2018 by nhaliday
Comparative Litigation Rates
We suggest that the notoriety of the U.S. does not result from the way citizens and judges handle routine disputes, which (different as it may be in developing countries) is not very different from in other wealthy, democratic societies,. Instead, American notoriety results from the peculiarly dysfunctional way judges handle disputes in discrete legal areas such as class actions and punitive damages
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december 2017 by nhaliday
What era are our intuitions about elites and business adapted to? – Gene Expression
Above natural states are open-access orders, which characterize societies that have market economies and competitive politics. Here access to the elite is open to anyone who can prove themselves worthy — it is not artificially restricted in order to preserve large rents for the incumbents. The pie can be made bigger with more people at the top, since you only get to the top in such societies by making and selling things that people want. Elite members compete against each other based on the quality and price of the goods and services they sell — it’s a mercantile elite — rather than based on who is better at violence than the others. If the elites are flabby, upstarts can readily form their own organizations — as opposed to not having the freedom to do so — that, if better, will dethrone the incumbents. Since violence is no longer part of elite competition, homicide rates are the lowest of all types of societies.

OK, now let’s take a look at just two innate views that most people have about how the business world works or what economic elites are like, and see how these are adaptations to natural states rather than to the very new open-access orders (which have only existed in Western Europe since about 1850 or so). One is the conviction, common even among many businessmen, that market share matters more than making profits — that being more popular trumps being more profitable. The other is most people’s mistrust of companies that dominate their entire industry, like Microsoft in computers.
gnxp  scitariat  reflection  farmers-and-foragers  sapiens  instinct  politics  coalitions  anthropology  cultural-dynamics  political-econ  polisci  leviathan  north-weingast-like  unintended-consequences  open-closed  biases  government  markets  market-power  rent-seeking  capitalism  democracy  roots  EEA  inequality  egalitarianism-hierarchy  business  cost-benefit  interests  elite  hari-seldon 
december 2017 by nhaliday
Land, history or modernization? Explaining ethnic fractionalization: Ethnic and Racial Studies: Vol 38, No 2
Ethnic fractionalization (EF) is frequently used as an explanatory tool in models of economic development, civil war and public goods provision. However, if EF is endogenous to political and economic change, its utility for further research diminishes. This turns out not to be the case. This paper provides the first comprehensive model of EF as a dependent variable.
study  polisci  sociology  political-econ  economics  broad-econ  diversity  putnam-like  race  concept  conceptual-vocab  definition  realness  eric-kaufmann  roots  database  dataset  robust  endogenous-exogenous  causation  anthropology  cultural-dynamics  tribalism  methodology  world  developing-world  🎩  things  metrics  intricacy  microfoundations 
december 2017 by nhaliday
ON THE ORIGIN OF STATES: STATIONARY BANDITS AND TAXATION IN EASTERN CONGO
As a foundation for this study, I organized the collection of village-level panel data on violent actors, managing teams of surveyors, village elders, and households in 380 war-torn areas of DRC. I introduce optimal taxation theory to the decision of violent actors to establish local monopolies of violence. The value of such decision hinges on their ability to tax the local population. A sharp rise in the global demand for coltan, a bulky commodity used in the electronics industry, leads violent actors to impose monopolies of violence and taxation in coltan sites, which persist even years after demand collapses. A similar rise in the demand for gold, easier to conceal and more difficult to tax, does not. However, the groups who nevertheless control gold sites are more likely to respond by undertaking investments in fiscal capacity, consistent with the difficulty to observe gold, and with well-documented trajectories of state formation in Europe (Ardant, 1975). The findings support the view that the expected revenue from taxation, determined in particular by tax base elasticity and costly investments in fiscal capacity, can explain the stages of state formation preceding the states as we recognize them today.
pdf  study  economics  growth-econ  broad-econ  political-econ  polisci  leviathan  north-weingast-like  unintended-consequences  institutions  microfoundations  econometrics  empirical  government  taxes  rent-seeking  supply-demand  incentives  property-rights  africa  developing-world  peace-violence  interests  longitudinal  natural-experiment  endogenous-exogenous  archaeology  trade  world  feudal  roots  ideas  cost-benefit  econ-productivity  traces 
november 2017 by nhaliday
Fortifications and Democracy in the Ancient Greek World by Josiah Ober, Barry Weingast :: SSRN
- Joshiah Ober, Barry Weingast

In the modern world, access-limiting fortification walls are not typically regarded as promoting democracy. But in Greek antiquity, increased investment in fortifications was correlated with the prevalence and stability of democracy. This paper sketches the background conditions of the Greek city-state ecology, analyzes a passage in Aristotle’s Politics, and assesses the choices of Hellenistic kings, Greek citizens, and urban elites, as modeled in a simple game. The paper explains how city walls promoted democracy and helps to explain several other puzzles: why Hellenistic kings taxed Greek cities at lower than expected rates; why elites in Greek cities supported democracy; and why elites were not more heavily taxed by democratic majorities. The relationship between walls, democracy, and taxes promoted continued economic growth into the late classical and Hellenistic period (4th-2nd centuries BCE), and ultimately contributed to the survival of Greek culture into the Roman era, and thus modernity. We conclude with a consideration of whether the walls-democracy relationship holds in modernity.

'Rulers Ruled by Women': An Economic Analysis of the Rise and Fall of Women's Rights in Ancient Sparta by Robert K. Fleck, F. Andrew Hanssen: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=788106
Throughout most of history, women as a class have possessed relatively few formal rights. The women of ancient Sparta were a striking exception. Although they could not vote, Spartan women reportedly owned 40 percent of Sparta's agricultural land and enjoyed other rights that were equally extraordinary. We offer a simple economic explanation for the Spartan anomaly. The defining moment for Sparta was its conquest of a neighboring land and people, which fundamentally changed the marginal products of Spartan men's and Spartan women's labor. To exploit the potential gains from a reallocation of labor - specifically, to provide the appropriate incentives and the proper human capital formation - men granted women property (and other) rights. Consistent with our explanation for the rise of women's rights, when Sparta lost the conquered land several centuries later, the rights for women disappeared. Two conclusions emerge that may help explain why women's rights have been so rare for most of history. First, in contrast to the rest of the world, the optimal (from the men's perspective) division of labor among Spartans involved women in work that was not easily monitored by men. Second, the rights held by Spartan women may have been part of an unstable equilibrium, which contained the seeds of its own destruction.
study  broad-econ  economics  polisci  political-econ  institutions  government  north-weingast-like  democracy  walls  correlation  polis  history  mediterranean  iron-age  the-classics  microfoundations  modernity  comparison  architecture  military  public-goodish  elite  civic  taxes  redistribution  canon  literature  big-peeps  conquest-empire  rent-seeking  defense  models  GT-101  incentives  urban  urban-rural  speculation  interdisciplinary  cliometrics  multi  civil-liberty  gender  gender-diff  equilibrium  cycles  branches  labor  interests  property-rights  unintended-consequences  explanation  explanans  analysis  econ-productivity  context  arrows  micro  natural-experiment 
november 2017 by nhaliday
Climate Risk, Cooperation, and the Co-Evolution of Culture and Institutions∗
We test this hypothesis for Europe combining high-resolution climate data for the period 1500-2000 with survey data at the sub-national level. We find that regions with higher inter-annual variability in precipitation and temperature display higher levels of trust. This effect is driven by variability in the growing season months, and by historical rather than recent variability. Regarding possible mechanisms, we show that regions with more variable climate were more closely connected to the Medieval trade network, indicating a higher propensity to engage in inter-community exchange. We also find that these regions were more likely to adopt participatory political institutions earlier on, and are characterized by a higher quality of local governments still today. Our results suggest that, by favoring the emergence of mutually-reinforcing norms and institutions, exposure to environmental risk had a long-lasting impact on human cooperation.
pdf  study  broad-econ  economics  cliometrics  path-dependence  growth-econ  political-econ  institutions  government  social-norms  culture  cultural-dynamics  correlation  history  early-modern  mostly-modern  values  poll  trust  n-factor  cooperate-defect  cohesion  democracy  environment  europe  the-great-west-whale  geography  trade  network-structure  general-survey  outcome-risk  uncertainty  branches  microfoundations  hari-seldon 
november 2017 by nhaliday
The political economy of fertility | SpringerLink
This paper studies the political economy of fertility. Specifically, I argue that fertility may be a strategic choice for ethnic groups engaged in redistributive conflict. I first present a simple conflict model where high fertility is optimal for each ethnic group if and only if the economy’s ethnic diversity is high, institutions are weak, or both. I then test the model in a cross-national dataset. Consistent with the theory, I find that economies where the product of ethnic diversity and a measure of institutional weakness is high have increased fertility rates. I conclude that fertility may depend on political factors.
study  sociology  speculation  stylized-facts  demographics  population  fertility  polisci  political-econ  institutions  nationalism-globalism  tribalism  us-them  self-interest  intervention  wonkish  pdf  piracy  microfoundations  phalanges  diversity  putnam-like  competition  israel  MENA  the-bones 
november 2017 by nhaliday
The Constitutional Economics of Autocratic Succession on JSTOR
Abstract. The paper extends and empirically tests Gordon Tullock’s public choice theory of the nature of autocracy. A simple model of the relationship between constitutional rules governing succession in autocratic regimes and the occurrence of coups against autocrats is sketched. The model is applied to a case study of coups against monarchs in Denmark in the period ca. 935–1849. A clear connection is found between the specific constitutional rules governing succession and the frequency of coups. Specifically, the introduction of automatic hereditary succession in an autocracy provides stability and limits the number of coups conducted by contenders.

Table 2. General constitutional rules of succession, Denmark ca. 935–1849

To see this the data may be divided into three categories of constitutional rules of succession: One of open succession (for the periods 935–1165 and 1326–40), one of appointed succession combined with election (for the periods 1165–1326 and 1340–1536), and one of more or less formalized hereditary succession (1536–1849). On the basis of this categorization the data have been summarized in Table 3.

validity of empirics is a little sketchy

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/922103073257824257
https://archive.is/NXbdQ
The graphic novel it is based on is insightful, illustrates Tullock's game-theoretic, asymmetric information views on autocracy.

Conclusions from Gorton Tullock's book Autocracy, p. 211-215.: https://astro.temple.edu/~bstavis/courses/tulluck.htm
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Frontier Culture: The Roots and Persistence of “Rugged Individualism” in the United States∗
In a classic 1893 essay, Frederick Jackson Turner argued that the American frontier promoted individualism. We revisit the Frontier Thesis and examine its relevance at the subnational level. Using Census data and GIS techniques, we track the frontier throughout the 1790–1890 period and construct a novel, county-level measure of historical frontier experience. We document the distinctive demographics of frontier locations during this period—disproportionately male, prime-age adult, foreign-born, and illiterate—as well as their higher levels of individualism, proxied by the share of infrequent names among children. Many decades after the closing of the frontier, counties with longer historical frontier experience exhibit more prevalent individualism and opposition to redistribution and regulation. We take several steps towards a causal interpretation, including an instrumental variables approach that exploits variation in the speed of westward expansion induced by prior national immigration in- flows. Using linked historical Census data, we identify mechanisms giving rise to a persistent frontier culture. Greater individualism on the frontier was not driven solely by selective migration, suggesting that frontier conditions may have shaped behavior and values. We provide evidence suggesting that rugged individualism may be rooted in its adaptive advantage on the frontier and the opportunities for upward mobility through effort.

https://twitter.com/whyvert/status/921900860224897024
https://archive.is/jTzSe

The Origins of Cultural Divergence: Evidence from a Developing Country.: http://economics.handels.gu.se/digitalAssets/1643/1643769_37.-hoang-anh-ho-ncde-2017-june.pdf
Cultural norms diverge substantially across societies, often even within the same country. In this paper, we test the voluntary settlement hypothesis, proposing that individualistic people tend to self-select into migrating out of reach from collectivist states towards the periphery and that such patterns of historical migration are reflected even in the contemporary distribution of norms. For more than one thousand years during the first millennium CE, northern Vietnam was under an exogenously imposed Chinese rule. From the eleventh to the eighteenth centuries, ancient Vietnam gradually expanded its territory through various waves of southward conquest. We demonstrate that areas being annexed earlier into ancient Vietnam are nowadays more (less) prone to collectivist (individualist) culture. We argue that the southward out-migration of individualist people was the main mechanism behind this finding. The result is consistent across various measures obtained from an extensive household survey and robust to various control variables as well as to different empirical specifications, including an instrumental variable estimation. A lab-in-the-field experiment also confirms the finding.
pdf  study  economics  broad-econ  cliometrics  path-dependence  evidence-based  empirical  stylized-facts  values  culture  cultural-dynamics  anthropology  usa  frontier  allodium  the-west  correlation  individualism-collectivism  measurement  politics  ideology  expression-survival  redistribution  regulation  political-econ  government  migration  history  early-modern  pre-ww2  things  phalanges  🎩  selection  polisci  roots  multi  twitter  social  commentary  scitariat  backup  gnon  growth-econ  medieval  china  asia  developing-world  shift  natural-experiment  endo-exo  endogenous-exogenous  hari-seldon 
october 2017 by nhaliday
Farm (revenue leasing) - Wikipedia
Tax farming was originally a Roman practice whereby the burden of tax collection was reassigned by the Roman State to private individuals or groups. In essence, these individuals or groups paid the taxes for a certain area and for a certain period of time and then attempted to cover their outlay by collecting money or saleable goods from the people within that area.[5] The system was set up by Gaius Gracchus in 123 BC primarily to increase the efficiency of tax collection within Rome itself but the system quickly spread to the Provinces.[6] Within the Roman Empire, these private individuals and groups which collected taxes in lieu of the bid (i.e. rent) they had paid to the state were known as publicani, of whom the best known is the disciple Matthew, a publicanus in the village of Capernaum in the province of Galilee. The system was widely abused, and reforms were enacted by Augustus and Diocletian.[7] Tax farming practices are believed to have contributed to the fall of the Western Roman Empire in Western Europe.[8]
concept  finance  ORFE  taxes  political-econ  institutions  government  leviathan  wiki  reference  history  iron-age  mediterranean  the-classics  gibbon  roots  britain  broad-econ  economics  rent-seeking 
october 2017 by nhaliday
Tax Evasion and Inequality
This paper attempts to estimate the size and distribution of tax evasion in rich countries. We combine stratified random audits—the key source used to study tax evasion so far—with new micro-data leaked from two large offshore financial institutions, HSBC Switzerland (“Swiss leaks”) and Mossack Fonseca (“Panama Papers”). We match these data to population-wide wealth records in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. We find that tax evasion rises sharply with wealth, a phenomenon that random audits fail to capture. On average about 3% of personal taxes are evaded in Scandinavia, but this figure rises to about 30% in the top 0.01% of the wealth distribution, a group that includes households with more than $40 million in net wealth. A simple model of the supply of tax evasion services can explain why evasion rises steeply with wealth. Taking tax evasion into account increases the rise in inequality seen in tax data since the 1970s markedly, highlighting the need to move beyond tax data to capture income and wealth at the top, even in countries where tax compliance is generally high. We also find that after reducing tax evasion—by using tax amnesties—tax evaders do not legally avoid taxes more. This result suggests that fighting tax evasion can be an effective way to collect more tax revenue from the ultra-wealthy.

Figure 1

America’s unreported economy: measuring the size, growth and determinants of income tax evasion in the U.S.: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10611-011-9346-x
This study empirically investigates the extent of noncompliance with the tax code and examines the determinants of federal income tax evasion in the U.S. Employing a refined version of Feige’s (Staff Papers, International Monetary Fund 33(4):768–881, 1986, 1989) General Currency Ratio (GCR) model to estimate a time series of unreported income as our measure of tax evasion, we find that 18–23% of total reportable income may not properly be reported to the IRS. This gives rise to a 2009 “tax gap” in the range of $390–$540 billion. As regards the determinants of tax noncompliance, we find that federal income tax evasion is an increasing function of the average effective federal income tax rate, the unemployment rate, the nominal interest rate, and per capita real GDP, and a decreasing function of the IRS audit rate. Despite important refinements of the traditional currency ratio approach for estimating the aggregate size and growth of unreported economies, we conclude that the sensitivity of the results to different benchmarks, imperfect data sources and alternative specifying assumptions precludes obtaining results of sufficient accuracy and reliability to serve as effective policy guides.
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october 2017 by nhaliday

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